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Conservation is always easier when you’re making someone else do it. But to steal a point from Randy Simms — just one of the more innocuous ones from his recent radio meltdown — putting your head in the sand and claiming for some reason that conservation doesn’t have to apply to you is plainly wrong.

The latest clash between conservation and personal entitlement is happening in Labrador, where the provincial government has put in place a five-year moratorium on hunting caribou from the George River herd.

The herd is in full collapse: recent census modelling puts the herd at fewer than 20,000, a 70 per cent drop from just three years ago.

And that’s only part of the story: July 2010 saw the herd at 74,000 animals, but even that is far, far below past numbers for the herd.

Scientists say the herd can’t sustain any amount of hunting at this time and plenty of people have agreed to stop, including the Nunatsiavut government and the NunatuKavut community council, who have agreed to a one-year halt.

The Innu, however, have a different view. They intend to continue a traditional hunt this year and have, among other things, suggested that they believe the caribou herd to be healthier than the situation the provincial government describes.

Their decision — especially from a group that maintains it has a role it respects as a steward of the land — is baffling, and has generated a fair amount of comment.

It’s worth noting, though, that it’s not a decision that’s strictly limited to one group.

Several people have made a valuable comparison: when the northern cod was in full collapse, there were still plenty of people in this province arguing they had a birthright to fish for the dinner table.

The argument was both simple and breathtaking in its self-entitlement: if someone was going to catch the last codfish, it might as well be a Newfoundlander.

Admit it: that kind of logic has to make your brain hurt. It is no better and no worse than the argument the Innu are making, that they have a traditional right to hunt caribou regardless of the condition of the herd.

With all due respect, there is a point at which that argument fails completely.

Even if you argue that there is a complete right for aboriginal groups to decide on resource management, you have to keep in mind that an individual of any group does not have the right to extinguish a species.

Anyone who blithely goes ahead and does that is not just robbing from the Earth as a whole: they are also robbing their own descendents, descendents who logically carry equal rights to their own.

And caribou scientists have been clear: if the species is not given the chance to properly recover, extinction is as close as 10 to 15 years from now.

There is a word that describes those who are willing to steal from their own children. And it’s not a pretty one.

Geographic location: Labrador, George River

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Recent comments

  • david
    February 05, 2013 - 13:02

    It is racism to criticize anything to do with aboriginals...it just is. So shut up, watch them engage in whatever crass, immoral, anti-social hypocricy they can think of, and accept it. Because it has been decided.

  • Wejitu
    February 03, 2013 - 21:29

    If for one minute you think Innut would harvest every last caribou, then you are as stupid as Simms. The caribou kept Innut alive for more than 10,000 years, especially so during a time when your government's bureaucrats wrote a memo saying, "Leave them alone. They will all die off eventually". Their whole life revolves around the caribou, physically, mentally and spiritually.

  • Traditionalist
    February 02, 2013 - 08:57

    I support the traditional aboriginal hunt without any limitations. However, it must be a traditional hunt using abolutely nothing bought in a store or made using items or methods available prior to the arrival of europeans in North America in either the hunting, butchering, storage, or eating. Likewise, I support traditonal cod fishing without limitations using only the same means as the first settlers to Newfoundland. If you want to use any modern things like the rest of us, you obey modern rules like the rest of us.

  • Lori-Ann
    February 01, 2013 - 23:59

    Most people are not aware of how diversified the Innu Nation has become with respect to legal and scientific resources. After the Voisey Bay deal the leadership invested in over 60 corporations, some of which are geared towards environmental and wildlife consultancy. the questions randy simms failed to ask the Innu leadership include, what different information do they have, who gave it to them, and why does it differ from the Province's information? The Quebec Innu also say they have received alternative opinions on the state of the Red Wine herd than the Province of NL's... Are the methods of the Province superior to Innu consultants on a regular basis? I would hesitate to say this without all the information.

  • Skeptical Cynic
    February 01, 2013 - 17:13

    For some Innu to insist that they have traditional rights to hunt threatened caribou herds using high-powered rifles with telescopic sights on quads, snowmobiles, or in their pick-up trucks... while using cleared roadways and GPS to access these herds... is a lamentable sham that bastardizes the notion of "traditional" aboriginal rights. Traditional" hunting rights should be predicated on "traditional" hunting methods.

  • Winston Adams
    February 01, 2013 - 15:22

    As the northern Innu have survived for thousnads of years,along with the caribou, and for the most part without our help, It is arrigant to assume we know more about the cycles of the caribou then the Innu elders. In the past they and their have starved along with the caribou, and with little or no help from us souther whites. They would be the last to want to exterminate the caribou. But to kill 2 or 3 hundren male caribou, less than 1 percent, for people so needing this, is not unreasonable. To say that view is baffling, or the logic makes your brain hurt, is just a nicer way that Randy Simms' words, that is is "insane" These words: stupid, insane, baffling, not logical..... it all assaults the intelligence of the INNU. IT SHOWS OUR IGNORANCE OF THEIR CULTURE. And to suggest they are willing to steel from their own children. I am not familiar with a single word to describe this. What is it? But it would seem to apply to any culture who avoids sustainable measures.. And sustainability and respect for the (mother) earth as the provider is entrenched in aboriginal culture. That they could take some animals for food while outfitters are restricted is very logical. The elders have it right.

  • Melissa
    February 01, 2013 - 13:22

    Aboriginal groups do have a right to live from the land as their ancestors years and years gone by always have. Except I believe the right to a traditional hunt, is 'just' to a traditional hunt, one that takes place with dog sled teams and bow and arrows. If you wish to hunt as the modern 'hu'man with a $15,000 snowmobile and a high powered rifle then you have to follow the same rules as every other 'hu'man. Whether your decendents are Aboriginal, European, Australian, Asian, or African, in the end we all came from the same place. Now in a world of Billions of people it is more important than ever that the rights of no one person or no individual group is provided at the express expense of everyone else.

    • Weary
      February 01, 2013 - 14:34

      Racism is alive and well in NL.

    • Winston Adams
      February 01, 2013 - 15:33

      Melissa, some people have more rights than others, aboriginals have special rights , or they are supposed to, but they are seldom respected. As to hunting with bow and arrow? That's like, for the cod food fishery, telling Nflders they can't use their outboard motors, only a sculling oar and a spanker. Do you even know what that means?

    • Aunt Lizzie
      February 02, 2013 - 00:24

      @Weary: Calling someone stupid for vowing to hunt an endangered caribou herd is not racist. Treating someone differently because they are aboriginal, or demanding special treatment because you are aboriginal yourself, is racist.

  • Brad
    February 01, 2013 - 10:35

    First off, where did you hear that saying, because it's new to me. More important than that drivel is the fact that bringing up such old arguments adds no value to the conversation. Yes, there was a movement in Newfoundland that extolled the supposed birthright of Newfoundlanders to take what they wanted from the ocean, but that movement failed and I see no value in using that as a manner of painting all newfoundlanders with the same brush. Perhaps you should consider keeping your comments to those whichare actually relevant to the actual conversation.

  • Look in the mirror
    February 01, 2013 - 07:22

    ''There is a word that describes those who are willing to steal from their own children. And it’s not a pretty one.'' What's that word? Newfoundlander? Politician? Seems that aboriginal or not, many here have the same attitude. I'm certainly not onside with the Innu's stance but as the editor rightly pointed out, it's a widespread around these parts. There's a common saying that 'Newfoundlanders eat their young'. It's valid for a reason.

    • Steve
      February 01, 2013 - 07:41

      I'm sorry, "Newfoundlanders eat their young" is not a common saying. It's not even a "saying" let alone common.